Hiking Gear

What sort of gear do you need for hiking day trips? That depends on when, where and how far you plan to go down the trail. Altrec.com offers a complete line of discount hiking gear and light trail running shoes to keep you prepared for unexpected delays and unanticipated side trips. Online gear reviews and ratings are available for every product we carry.

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Map and Compass
Topographical maps, Forest Service maps and hunting maps are only as good as the person interpreting the trail and route data. Pack several map resources and consider taking a route finding or backcountry navigation classes before extended trips. Some day hikers (including staff members) have used information from trail guidebooks to supplement Forest Service maps containing out-of-date references. While Garmin and Magellan handheld GPS units provide excellent data, these battery-powered units are not a substitute for a map and compass, especially while navigating narrow valleys that impede satellite signals.

You can lose your voice yelling for help, but searchers will hear a whistle, even if a broken or cracked rib makes it painful or difficult to breathe. Metal and lightweight plastic whistles are light, compact and highly effective at being found in fog, deep brush or complete darkness. Some day hiking packs from Deuter include safety whistles attached to the sternum strap. Whistles are also excellent accessories for children's packs because they require minimal weight.

You're a day hiker, not a night hiker, so it's easy to understand why flashlights are absent from most daypacks. Even when remembered, few hiking flashlights contain fresh batteries or replacement bulbs. Purchase a low-drain, high illumination flashlight or headlamp instead of a conventional, fast-draining light source. Petzl offers an extensive range of high-output headlamps with low-drain LED bulbs. Headlamps also give you the hands-free convenience of wearing something that illuminates wherever you look. It's an essential advantage you'll appreciate while navigating tight spots in the dark.

First Aid Kit
Bigger is usually better for first aid kits, but nothing supplements any form of aid better than training on how to administer assistance. Aspirin, bandages, moleskin and gauze are modest beginnings, but consider expanding your kit to include antibacterial soap, sterile gloves, wire mesh splints and more. Life-Link, Adventure Medical and Outdoor Research offer excellent starter first aid kits. Consult backcountry reference guides for recommendations on important additions.

Pocket Knife
Hiking and camping knives come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the most important feature is a durable and reliable cutting edge you can use for repairing pack components or for whittling dry wood into kindling. While gear gurus opt for multi-tools, your final preference should depend on what sort of knife fits you best. In most cases weight matters most: How many ounces do you want to lug around if you never use the corkscrew and Phillips head screwdriver attachments?

Hikers often remember sunglasses on sunny day hikes, but this essential is easy to forget if you set out before dawn or begin your hike below the clouds. Go for eyewear with 100% protection from all UV rays and consider glacier glasses or wrap lenses for bright alpine conditions. The more eye protection you wear during the day (especially in bright overcast) the better you'll see the terrain after the sun goes down.

Extra Clothing
Choose breathable, compressible hiking clothing that layers well and fits your current climate and conditions. A waterproof and breathable shell offers excellent protection against rain, but it won't insulate you after the temperature drops and sloppy sleet freezes against your skin. Consider your anticipated weather and plan for worse case scenarios. Depending on where you hike, this could mean using a large-capacity daypack to accommodate fleece pants, gloves and jackets in winter conditions.

Extra Food, Water and Batteries
Some hikers equate unused food and water with unnecessary ballast, but the extra calories and hydration could save you in an unexpected overnight emergency bivouac. Experienced hikers often choose less desirable or bland flavored hiking and running energy bars to inhibit their desire to snack away on their emergency food supply during ordinary rest breaks. A lightweight water filter from MSR, PUR or Katadyn can enhance your water replenishment potential--provided that you find a water source during your hike. Keep a spare set of alkaline batteries with your extra food and water. Ideally these batteries should be interchangeable with your lightweight flashlight, GPS unit and other essential hiking gear.

Waterproof Matches and Candle
While backcountry purists would shudder at the notion of building a campfire in pristine wilderness environments, sometimes emergencies call for extreme measures. Store your waterproof matches in a watertight plastic container and make sure you have a striking device for igniting the match. Use melted wax from your candle to assist with your fire starting materials. While some insist on substituting butane lighters for waterproof matches, keep in mind that butane fuel can evaporate over time and that the metal lighter components will eventually deteriorate and rust.

The 11th Essential
Is it sunscreen? A waterproof map case? A packing list or cellular phone? How about dog hiking gear to share the load? For most the 11th essential is common sense. It's about recognizing your limits in changing climate conditions. Before you go outside, make a list of your wilderness hiking and camping essentials so you have everything you need for a safe and happy return.

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